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Raising awareness of domestic violence among local football community

Domestic violence is one of the biggest problems that is afflicting our society.

During the past months, there were several cases of women suffering abuse from their husbands or partners and some of them even ended up losing their lives.

In a bid to raise awareness of this major problem afflicting women, the Malta FA, under the Football Social Responsibility Department, organised a half-day seminar for coaches in the women’s football sector at the Centenary Hall in Ta’ Qali.

Peter Busuttil, the director of the Football Social Responsibility department, organised this event as part of the Goalscore project which is an Erasmus+ programme funded by the European Union.

The Malta FA is the lead partner in Goalscore, and it is working in collaboration with the Malta Women’s Lobby, the Portuguese Football Association, the Romanian Football Association, Unimore, Filia, APAV and Euractiv.

The aim of Goalscore is to create awareness of domestic violence and has been on the MFA’s Football Social Responsibility department’s agenda for the past two years.

Chaired by Peter Busuttil, the seminar was attended by several coaches from many clubs that boast women’s teams both at senior and youth level.

Martina Farrugia, who is a researcher and expert on Gender Equality with a specialisation in violence against women, gave a general overview of what was domestic violence.

She said that the majority of the victims in domestic violence were women and the most common perpetrator were men.

Farrugia said that domestic violence could take various forms, such as physical, sexual, psychological and economic.

Other forms of violence include stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, forced abortion and sterilisation.

Femicide is the most serious form of physical violence and unfortunately in the past few months we had some cases of femicide which resulted in women being killed by their partners.

Sexual violence can take the form of women forced into intercourse under the intimidation of physical aggression.

On the otherhand, a person can receive psychological harm in the form of coercion, defamation, verbal insults or harassment.

Farrugia also explained the dynamics of economical abuse which sees a women being restricted access to financial resources, suffers property damage, is prevented from working or could be forced to quit her job.

Added to that there were cases when perpetrators obliged their partners to deposit their salary into their account, seize their debit cards and even force them into debt.

Online violence could take the form of having material, which could include intimate images or videos, being distributed without the consent of the victims

Farrugia said that the perpetrator’s abuse works in the form of a cycle which starts with the honeymoon phase but then tension starts to build before it reaches the ‘explosion phase’.

A worrying statistic revealed was that 21 per cent of women and girls have suffered sexual abuse in a sporting environment – nearly a double of the rate of their male counterparts.

The seminar also featured a first-hand experience of a victim – Elaine Compagno who went on to become the General Manager at Women For Women Foundation.

Compagno related her own experience and said that there are signs to detect when a person is suffering domestic abuse but are not obvious.

She said that one clear sign is when a person loves doing something and then suddenly stops. This could be detected in sports environment when one person, who normally is very punctual for training sessions, suddenly starts missing training.

A number clear sign is if this person seems to be under control of someone else and declines offers to socialise with her team-mates after training sessions or is constantly texting someone on the phone.

Police Inspector Sylvana Gafa also spoke about the support that is being offered to victims of domestic violence.

Gafa, who is the Head of Services at the Victim Support Agency, said that one concerning signs of possible domestic violence could be detected in football nurseries when parents attend to watch their children play.

She said that when one sees a parent beating his children or is continuously shouting and swearing at them puts a lot of stress on the children and could lead to domestic violence.

“When you see children terrified of doing something because of their parents it could be a sign that something is happening at home,” Inspector Gafa said.

She appealed to the participants that if they encounter possible cases of domestic violence to contact the Victim Support Agency for assistance.

On is part, Peter Busuttil said that the next step is now to continue visiting clubs and hold sessions based on creating awareness and to promote the objectives of Goalscore.

In May , a football festival with women’s teams and also mixed gender teams will be held in Malta.

For more information visit the project website www.projectgoalscore.com

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